After scaring my newly-pregnant wife with the dangers of toxoplasmosis (I swear I thought there was something to it), we permanently shipped her cats off to her parents’ house, and I settled in to what I thought would forever be our comfortable pet-free home. And then came my son. My son wanted a dog. Really that should read, ‘My wife wanted a dog to replace her cats, and suggested the idea to our son figuring that his incessant querying would break me.’ Well, it didn’t. My winning question to him was, ‘Who’s going to pick-up the poop?’ Disgusted, his only response was, ‘Not me!’
While flipping through the wonderful photo book Animal House, by Catherine Ledner, my son arrived at a compromise. Since he couldn’t have a dog, because picking up doggy doo grossed him out, he wanted a rabbit instead. And not just any rabbit. A dwarf rabbit with saucer eyes, cute little ears and a snow white coat… just like the one in the picture.
Since adopting a pet was soon likely for our family, I decided to research the topic more thoroughly. The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association reports that US pet owners are parents to “more than 17 million birds, 7 million saltwater fish, 185 million freshwater fish and almost 17 million small animals, such as hamsters and gerbils,” as noted on the ASPCA website. The site also notes that, “while these critters may be small in stature, we consider a pet owner’s commitment to caring for them a pretty big one.”
Not only is caring for a pet a huge responsibility, it can be a very large burden on the environment. According to an article in the San Francisco Gate, “Even people who spend hours at Whole Foods reading labels and querying the butcher about the life and death of that night’s dinner often just grab the nearest brightly-colored sack or box for their pets.” And that’s a big no-no.
Basically, the same choices we make as environmentally responsible individuals (recycling, shopping locally, consuming organics, properly disposing of waste), should be applied if we intend to be ‘green’ pet owners. The Grist website even suggests taking this responsibility a bit further by spaying, not supporting pet mills, staying away from vinyl pet toys and putting pooper scoopers to good use.
My son didn’t get the rabbit in the picture book, but after denying him his All-American right to be a dog owner (not to mention drawing the ire of my wife), I couldn’t very well now refuse him his very own Easter bunny. Yes, yes, I know that a bunny is not the best ‘first pet’ for a kid, but did I mention the saucer eyes? So we prepped, read books, interviewed pet store employees and even got a lifelike bunny to practice with.
After all of this preparation, we finally we got a real, all black rabbit from a breeder in upstate, NY. The rabbit’s name is Sacoolie, a name made up by my son months before we actually got it. And as the ASPCA website warned, “While a rabbit may be a great pet for your family, an adult should be the primary caretaker.” I’ve become Sacoolie’s hutch cleaner, feeder, groomer and pellet-poop sweeper. But even I, with all of my pet indifference, must admit that the darn thing really is cute.